Listening to music undoubtedly tops the charts when it comes to accompaniment on a run – evidence suggests that listening to music, especially that at the same beats per minute of your stride, can help improve endurance and fatigue resistance in training. However, listening to a fast-paced techno song on your recovery days might not be the best idea to keep you heart rate in Zone 2. For these runs, we love to turn up the volume on the best running books and audiobooks especially on our long distance runs.
Audiobooks are growing in popularity.
We love many things about running – one of which is that it doesn’t require much brain power. Coincidentally, this makes it the perfect time to switch off and listen to something interesting, entertaining or both.
So here are the best running books you can find on audiobooks to get you in that calm mood for your next session.
Our Favorite Best Running Books
Endure by Alex Hutchinson, 2018
Alex Hutchinson is an award-winning journalist best known for his columns with Outside Magazine that blend scientific research and practical running wisdom. Endure looks at the physiological and psychological limits of human endurance, and how it might be less about what your body can do, and more about what your mind can take. Alex Hutchinson examines the multiple and complex factors that allow marathon runners and cyclists to keep breaking records and reaching new heights in human endurance.
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, 2009
If you’ve asked anyone about the best running book – they’ll probably tell you that they read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. This cult classic follows the story of the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico and the tale of their endurance prowess – as they ran bewildering times scaling mountains with running shoes made from thin rubber sandals. In the exploration of the Tarahumara tribe, we are also introduced to ultrarunning legend, Micah True, also known as “Caballo Blanco.” It’s a brilliant mix of an exciting, almost unbelievable story, science, anthropology and the authors own personal experiences. If you like it, they’ve also published Born to Run 2 earlier this year.
Eat and Run by Scott Jurek, 2012
In Eat & Run, professional ultra runner Scott Jurek opens up about his journey into running ultramarathons interspersed with his favourite vegan recipes. Scott Jurek is known for many things within the distance runner world – he’s a 7-time winner of the Western States 100 and 2-time winner of Badwater Ultramarathon, and he was also one of the elite runners who travelled to Mexico to run with the Tarahumara Indians. This book is a wealth of information from one of the greatest trail running legends of our generation. This is one of the best running books as it also played a role in launching Scott to his current fame.
Good for a Girl by Lauren Fleshman, 2023
A New York Times Bestseller, Good for a Girl follows the story of Lauren Fleshman from girlhood, through her years as one of the most decorated college athletes of all time, a professional runner, then to becoming a running coach and mentor as an adult. The book also explores how track & field coaching favors boys, and how girls are being left behind by a system that is in desperate need of updating. One of the best running books published on the modern professional athlete.
Feet in the Clouds by Richard Askwith, 2004
Another cult classic. This book weaves the history of fell running in the Lake District with the author’s own attempts at completing the Bob Graham round, a 66-mile, 27,000ft circuit of 42 of the highest peaks in the Lake District. In case you’re not reading this from the UK, fell running is running off-road where there’s a significant uphill component. It was popularized in northern Britain in the Lake District. Warning: this will make you want to get out onto the fells and run.
Eat, Sweat, Play by Anna Kessel, 2016
This book isn’t about running specifically, but delves into the barriers facing girls and women getting into, and continuing to play all sports. I truly believe every parent should read this book. It should even be added to the school curriculum to lead a sea-change for women’s bodies, self-confidence and health. Brilliantly written account, featuring many of the best female athletes.
Training for the Uphill Athlete by Steve House, Scott Johnston & Kilian Journet, 2019
This is the ultimate manual for any mountain runner. There’s no need to sugar coat this, while it makes for sometimes dry listening, the amount of information packed into this book is phenomenal – from specific drills to training tips, trail running principles, to injury prevention, to diet recommendations. If you’re interested in the illustrations, you may want to look into the paperback, but the audiobook is still immensely valuable. In case you missed it, Kilian Journet, one of the authors, is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest ultramarathon runners.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, 2009
This beautifully written short book details the author’s transformation through his running obsession. Haruki is better known for his writing of fiction. So, it’s a rare treat to get to read along a creative thinker as he documents his journey from first marathon to ultramarathons. It is wonderfully relatable and surprisingly poetic at times. A must read for any runner. One of the best running books that’s also an exploration of philosophical and existential questions.
The Rise of the Ultrarunners by Adharanand Finn, 2020
This is a great book for understanding what drives certain individuals to push their body far beyond what most humans would consider ‘normal’. “Marathons are no longer enough. Pain is to be relished, not avoided. Hallucinations are normal. Ultra running defies conventional logic. Yetm this most brutal and challenging sport is now one of the fastest-growing in the world.” This book is a great read that follows Finn’s journey into the world of ultrarunning and is brilliantly written.
Running While Black by Alison Mariella Desir, 2022
This important book follows the author’s journey into running as a Black woman and how the history of distance running erases and minimizes anyone except thin, white men. This book calls for a change in the industry, while sharing how running saved Desir’s life.
Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall, 2019
McDougall, author of Born to Run, strikes again with another beautifully written, funny and moving book. This book details his adoption and care of a neglected donkey and his quest to provide it with a meaningful life. Heart-warming and funny.
Coasting by Elise Downing, 2021
One of a few hilariously relatable books on this list. Elise Downing documents her 5,000 mile adventure running around the coast of Britain, carrying her kit on her back. Coasting is about putting one foot in front of the other, and seeing where it takes you. Funny, easy to read and inspiring.
Choosing to Run by Des Linden, 2023
This memoir takes readers through the entirety of Olympic marathon runner Des Linden’s career, from the triumphs, such as winning the Boston Marathon, to the failures. Inspirational and motivational. You can hear more about Des Linden’s story on her podcast and YouTube channel Nobody Asked Us with co-host Kara Goucher.
The Longest Race by Kara Goucher, 2023
A 2023 release that made waves. Kara’s story exposes the dark world of doping and abuse in Nike’s elite athletes running team, the Nike Oregon Project. A call to action, as told by world-famous runner and Olympian Kara Goucher.
Solo by Jenny Tough, 2022
If you’re looking for something inspirational, this book has it all. Jenny Tough documents her solo, unsupported runs across mountain ranges on 6 continents across the earth, from the Atlas mountains in North Africa, to the unforgiving Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Proper tough stuff.
Out and Back by Hilary Allen, 2021
This is the story of how sky and ultra runner Hilary Allen made a comeback from a near-death experience 50km mid-race. After falling 150ft off a ride and breaking her back, ribs, feet and more, this book is a story of mental fortitude, perseverance and vulnerability.
Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff, 2020
This is one of many books by Anna McNuff sharing her self-powered adventures around the world. This one is about her 1,800 mile unsupported run across the length of New Zealand, via the beautiful but challenging Te Araroa Trail. McNuff never takes anything too seriously so this is a funny and inspirational (but, equally relatable) book.
Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes, 2005
This is the inspirational story of American Dean Karnazes, and his ultramarathon adventures all around the world, from the searing heat of Death Valley, to the South Pole. Dean woke up on his thirtieth birthday and decided he’d run 30 miles. That opened up his world to running on every continent twice, the hottest place on earth, coldest place on earth, and 50 marathons in 50 days.
Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall, 2016
Not so much a running book as a fascinating history book, but this one is a must-listen/read! This is the little-known story of a motley crew of architects, poets, and ageing academics who acquired seemingly superhuman strength to fight the Nazis in the invasion of Crete during World War 2. McDougall flits between the story, ancient history and science to explain the lost art of heroism.
We Can’t Run Away From This by Damian Hall, 2022
Just a year after his other book, In It For The Long Run, this book delves into the environmental impact of the sport that is, at its core, supposed to be low impact. It looks at ways we, as runners, could reduce our own impact, to preserve the world we so love to run in. The foreword is written by Kilian Journet.
Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, 2018
While not specifically a “running” book, David Goggins took the world by storm with his 2018 book Can’t Hurt Me about his journey from a troubled childhood, to becoming a Navy Seal, to his journey as an ultramarathon runner with completions of Moab 240, Leadville, and Badwater 135. For more on David Goggins, we’d recommend Living With A Seal by Jesse Itzler. This is one of the best running books for those looking for more motivation as they head out on their long runs.
A Brief History of Intelligence by Max Bennett, 2023
We’re in an era with prehistoric biology, midieval societal structures, and God-like technology. A Brief History of Intelligence is equal part Sapiens and Superintelligence and an exploration of human brain evolution to what we can expect from intelligence in the future.
Burn by Herman Pontzer, 2021
A look into the science of metabolism. What we find out? How much you exercise doesn’t always correlate to how much weight you can lose. Metabolism, by design, has evolved to request more calories to support higher activity loads. In a day and age where calorie-dense foods are available affordably all the time, the key to managing weight and metabolism simply comes down to diet.
Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor, 2018
Deena Kastor was the first American to medal in the Olympic marathon in 20 years in 2005. Let Your Mind Run is an exploration of the difference between the physical marathon training required to be an elite athlete athlete and the mental requirements.
26 Marathons by Meb Keflezighi, 2019
Meb Keglezighi is the first runner to win both the New York City Marathon and Boston Marathon and an Olympic medal. Over the course of his career, Meb completed 26 marathons. A look inside his world of running, training, nutrition, family, identity and faith.
Finding Ultra by Rich Roll, 2018
You may know Rich Roll more recently from his growingly popular podcast – the Rich Roll Podcast. In his book Finding Ultra, he articulates his life journey from suffering from severe alcohol and depression as a corporate attorney, to becoming a vegan ultrarunner.
Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn, 2012
Quite a few of the distance running world records are held by Kenyans. What is it about the training, diet, upbringing, and lifestyle of the Kenyan athlete community that make them such exceptional runners? Adharanand Finn goes to a Kenyan training camp to take a look inside.
Pre: The Story of America’s Greatest Running Legend by Tom Jordan, 1997
For five years, no American runner could run a faster mile than Steve Prefontaine. If you’re not familiar with Steve’s name, you may recognize his picture or his famous quotes like “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.” An exploration of his brief but extraordinary influential life.
Ready to Run by Kelly Starett, 2014
If you’re reading this list, your focus in life is to run for a long period of time. Not just a marathon, but for a large portion of your life. Mobility and movement expert, Dr. Kelly Starett, shares twelve standard practices to prepare your body for a lifetime of top performance running.
Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men’s Cross-Country Team by Chris Lear, 2011
Runner’s World rated one of the top five books about running. A follow through the triumphs and heartaches of the University of Colorado cross country team and their attempt at a first ever national team title with coach Mark Wetmore.
Once a Runner: A Novel by John L. Parker Jr., 1978
One of the only fictional stories on the list. A story inspired by the author’s experience as a collegiate runner, on a pursuit to run a four-minute mile during the midst of the Vietnam War. With twists and turns, a beautiful tale of the story of competitive runner’s goal to be the greatest miler in history.
Best Running Books for Training Protocols
Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger, 2001
Often considered the Holy Grail of marathon training information. Whether or not you follow his training plans, Pete Pfitzinger’s book still contains a wealth of knowledge about the physiology of running and explaining the purpose of specific workouts and running stimuli. This knowledge can then be applied to any training plan whether you’re running a half marathon or ultra marathon. Widely considered one of the best running books for marathon training methods.
The Art of Running Faster by Julian Goater & Don Melvin, 2012
Good old fashioned training information on providing a new approach to running, achieving goals, and setting personal bests. The Art of Running faster does it’s best work by dispelling some of the myths of training, stereotypes, and doubts of self-limitations. A great exploration of both the mental and physical obstacles of running your best.
Lore of Running by Tim Noake, 2002
A comprehensive text-book like analysis of the physiology of training, racing, and injuries. It makes for a very dry audiobook but, if you’ve been struggling with the mechanics of your running and looking for hard-core facts – this might be your book.
Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry, 2023
A popular manual from physical therapist Jay Dicharry with instructions on how to become stronger, faster, and more endurable in your running. There’s 11 self-tests for mobility, 83 exercises to fix weak points, and 15 exercises to amplify your training.
80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Faster by Matt Fitzgerald, 2014
This is the Pareto Principle for runners. If you’re unfamiliar with that principle, it’s the idea that 80% of your returns actually come from only 20% of your input. Using that principle, this is an often recommended training book for runners who are struggling to find the right balance in their training between high and low effort runs to yield the optimal returns. Whether it’s avoiding injury, burnout, or personal bests, consider this a lose training guide for your best years of running.
Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels
No, this has nothing to do with whiskey. While this isn’t at all an audiobook, the Jack Daniels training plans have been sworn up and down by beginners and elite athletes alike. Not ready for something as intense? Check out our own training plans.
Best Running Books for Nutrition
Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky, 2018
An honorable mention, mostly because you can’t listen to a book of recipes while running. I mean, you could, but that’s not nearly as fun. Run Fast, Eat Slow is the most popular recipe book for runners and should come with every pair of running shoes. Just one of the best running books for plain, simple, good cooking.
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